VR headset restricts breathing for more accurate environment simulation

VR headset - University of Salzburg

Salzburg University researchers have developed the gadget to create more realistic scenarios.

While a VR headset that restricts breathing doesn’t sound like much of a feature, it was created on purpose to help provide a more realistic experience to the wearers.

The device, which is called AirRes, was developed by researchers from Salzburg University.

The AirRes VR headset attachment is shaped somewhat like a snorkel. It was developed to control how much air the wearer can breathe. According to the researchers behind it, it could help to make the experience of the wearer far more realistic, such as in the case of a simulated smoky environment or for simulating a firefighter’s experience.

On the other hand, it could also be used in virtual reality games that require a player to use their breath to achieve a certain outcome, such as blowing out a candle or inflating a balloon.

VR Headset - AirRes Mask - A Precise and Robust Virtual Reality Breathing Interface Utilizing Breathing - ACM SICGHI YouTube

“The AirRes mask enhances virtual experiences and has the potential to create more immersive scenarios for applications by enforcing the perception of danger or improving situational awareness in training simulations,” said the study researchers in their paper in ACM.

The researchers used a medical-grade gas flow sensor to create the VR headset breathing feature.

The medical-grade gas flow sensor was attached to a virtual reality mask along with an adjustable air valve. The gadget was tested on 12 participants who wore it as they experienced a range of different virtual reality scenarios, which included the previously mentioned blowing out candles and balloon inflation.

“[Our system] was precise, it didn’t have any motion artefacts and it allowed us to really measure the inhalation and exhalation of users to create interactive applications that use breathing as input,” said study leader Markus Tatzgern.

In order to ensure the realism of the scenarios, the researchers actively adjusted the amount of air available for the participants to breathe through the gadget. For instance, when the participants were inflating the virtual reality balloons, the researchers would add resistance to the amount the participant could exhale as the balloon grew larger.

Similarly, air flow was restricted through the VR headset when the wearers were making their way through a virtual reality smoky environment as though they were firefighters.

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